Imagine heading into your office and, with a simple scan of the chip in your wrist, everything you need to start your day at work is set up.
You are let in through the security gate, sure, but at the same time, the office systems call a lift for the correct floor, your computer at your desk switches on, and the smart coffee machine even prepares your regular morning coffee.
This is the world of biochipping, a technique at the cutting commercial edge of biotechnology.
Biohax, the Swedish start-up behind this biotechnology revolution, have already got thousands of customers in their home country pioneering the use of this futuristic tech.
These chips are the size of a grain of rice and are implanted via a syringe under the skin of your hand. With it, you can access your smartphone, set an alarm, or open a locked door. Security and convenience benefits are obvious.
And now, Biohax is moving beyond Sweden. It is looking towards Italy and other parts of Europe and expects to have 2500 implants up and running in Rome and Milan by the end of the year. It’s not just Biohax at the leading edge of this trend, either – in the UK, a company called BioTeq has already implanted 250 chips into people.
No more wallets
At the moment, the use cases are marginal for biochipping – logging on to computers, launching your LinkedIn app – simple tasks. But using them as payment systems – alternatives to cash or contactless card payments – is seen as the key for the mass adoption of biochips.
Biohax hopes that talks with Vodafone and Paypal to create contactless payment systems that recognise the implanted chips will help that get off the ground. But there are growing pains.
“It’s taken longer than what I thought and hoped,” says Eric Larsen, head of Biohax Italia. “It was three years ago that I got my chip implanted. It looks like it’ll be another year before the chip will work for making payments.”
And Swedish train operator SJ has actually ended its trial of implanted chips as there was less take-up than expected.
Fears over uptake
But all is not rosy with biochipping. COVID-19 and the introduction of certain contact tracing applications have made the public warier of this sort of technology, even though implanted chips are a passive tech and do not make use of GPS.
Instead, they use near field communications (NFC) and radio-frequency identification to communicate. Basically, it’s the same tech you use for contactless cards or phones. So there are some data protection issues – meaning someone could pick up the signal.
That’s where cybersecurity comes in…